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Wednesday, June 23, 2021
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Robert Montoya


Autopsy Report: Property Taxes Will Continue to Rise in Texas

As Texans’ property taxes continue to rise, the Texas Legislature took no decisive action to lower them across the board. Three experts discuss what...

Texas Home School Coalition Reflects on the Session

During this legislative session, legislators heard from citizens and delivered two key homeschooling reforms: allowing equal access to the school resources that families pay...

Rivals Challenge Abbott on Employer Vaccination Mandate

Rivals of Gov. Greg Abbott have spoken out on the situation in a Houston hospital where employees are resisting their employers’ vaccine mandate. The...

Have Texas’ Power Problems Been Fixed?

Despite Gov. Greg Abbott signing legislation in response to the February blackouts, concerns have emerged about Texas’ power grid this summer. Texas Scorecard spoke...

Gov. Abbott Asked to Ban Employer Vaccination Mandates

Despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s claim that vaccine passports are prohibited in Texas, employees at a Houston Hospital are having to fight their employers’ mandate...

Dallas Mayor Unveils Crime and Police Accountability Plan

As Dallas City Council prepares to decide police funding again this year, Mayor Johnson unveiled his plan to address crime and increase police accountability....

Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Failed Officials Who Support It

Local officials who support local government using taxpayer money to lobby the state government—a practice widely opposed by Texans—also gave clear examples of how...

Betsy Price Running for Tarrant County Judge

Claiming she has a conservative record, outgoing Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price is running to replace retiring Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley. While she...

COVID Mandate Stories: ‘We Went Broke’

One Houston-area business owner shares how his business struggled, and later died, thanks to government shutdown orders and restrictions. Even so, state officials allowed...

Tarrant County Judge Won’t Seek Re-Election

With a long-running county judge announcing his last term, and more county officials reportedly joining him, Tarrant County citizens will have opportunities to decide...

Latest news

Should All States Tax and Spend Like California? President Biden’s Stimulus Plan Could Make It So

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy during a visit to Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, May 27, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters) How a partisan provision of the Biden stimulus handicaps states. President Biden’s recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act gives states billions for COVID-19 relief, but with strings attached: States that take it are effectively banned from cutting taxes through 2024. The policy not only has extraordinary repercussions for the nature of states’ power — it would also slow states’ recovery. The Act says states can’t use their federal funds to “directly or indirectly offset” revenue loss from a tax cut. If they do, the Treasury secretary can take their grant money back. Defenders of this “tax mandate” say it ensures states use their federal grants for COVID relief, not to “pay for” tax cuts. But that makes no sense, given that the Act otherwise gives states broad leeway. The mandate’s true purpose is obvious: to push all states to adopt policies favored by the high-tax states that are losing residents to lower-tax states. The tax mandate isn’t necessary to make sure states use their grant money for COVID relief. The Act elsewhere requires states to tell the Treasury Department what they used their relief money for. If a state receives, say, $5 billion, it has to show that it actually spent $5 billion for purposes the Act allows. A state has to pay back any portion of the money that it spends on anything else. That rule ensures states use their federal grants for COVID relief. The tax mandate does not: A state could run afoul of it even if it spends the full amount of its grant on federally approved purposes. Some might argue that if a state can afford to cut taxes, it should pay for its own COVID relief and not get federal money. That might make sense — if the Act were designed to ensure that states only receive federal help if they can’t afford to pay for their own COVID relief. But the Act isn’t designed that way: It allows states to spend as much state tax revenue as they want on whatever they want, as long as they use the federal money for COVID relief. So the Act and its tax mandate aren’t designed to protect against states “indirectly” using federal funds for unapproved purposes. The mandate serves only to stop states from cutting taxes. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2805 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2805 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2805 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2805 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2b00 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2b00 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2b00 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2b00 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2cf0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2cf0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2cf0 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2cf0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2dec .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2dec .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2dec { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2dec .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2edc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2edc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2edc { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d8da2edc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Why would such a condition be added into the federal COVID relief plan? The tax mandate was added to the Act at the last minute at the behest of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who said “states shouldn’t be cutting taxes” and reportedly insisted on the mandate to thwart a plan by the governor of West Virginia (an office Manchin previously held) to phase out the state’s income tax. Others in Congress who voted for the mandate undoubtedly had a motive that has nothing to do with COVID relief: suppressing tax competition among the states. For years, taxpayers have been fleeing poorly managed high-tax states, such as California and Illinois, for states with lower taxes. The pandemic has accelerated that trend. Unsurprisingly, senators from the states that are losing the most residents voted for the mandate, in an apparent attempt to stem the outflow of residents and businesses to lower-tax states — that is, to suppress the competition among the states that our federalist system was designed to encourage. And, of course, the mandate’s duration through the 2024 election cycle raises further suspicions. Another reason the mandate has nothing to do with COVID relief is that tax relief can itself be COVID relief. Congress knows this: The Act provides billions in relief through federal-tax credits. And it makes sense that, as part of a comprehensive recovery plan, a state would want to use federal funds as the Act prescribes while also enacting tax reforms to encourage business and job growth. Just as a state could complement the Act’s COVID relief with additional state spending on COVID relief — which the Act allows — it could also do so with tax relief. There’s no good reason why the Act should force states that want to provide extra COVID relief to choose spending over tax breaks. There’s only the obvious illegitimate reason: to force states that have managed their finances well to adopt the tax-and-spend policies of states that have managed their finances poorly. Many state attorneys general have filed lawsuits arguing that the tax mandate exceeds Congress’s power under the Constitution’s Spending Clause. In Ohio’s lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas R. Cole has said in a preliminary ruling that the mandate is likely unconstitutional because it is ambiguous — it is not clear exactly how a state can determine what constitutes a decrease in “net tax revenue” that could trigger an obligation to repay federal grant money. As the Goldwater Institute has argued in a brief in that case, the complete lack of any relationship between the tax mandate and the Act’s supposed purpose of providing COVID relief — and Congress’s obvious ulterior motive — is another reason why the states challenging the mandate should prevail.

How The Left Is Exploiting Tribal Hypocrisy On Oil Leases In The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

President Joe Biden continued to follow through on his campaign pledge to enact leftist environmentalism this month when he suspended oil and gas leases...

The Juneteenth Everyone Forgot

Ralph Ellison in 1961. (Public domain/via Wikimedia) Ralph Ellison’s legendary second novel is more relevant than ever. They never made a movie out of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, a key American novel of the 20th century. They — the media and political-industrial complex that rules popular culture — repeatedly adapt Richard Wright’s lesser Native Son. They have been intimidated by Ellison’s genius ever since his 1952 debut, so despite his literary stature, Ellison’s follow-up novel, Juneteeth, has been ignored by modern cultural arbiters. Juneteenth itself — June 19, 1865, when Union troops brought that news of the Emancipation Proclamation to the state of Texas, two and half years after President Lincoln decreed it — has, instead, become a media holiday. Pre-planned marches and celebrations were broadcast almost instantaneously after Biden officially signed its redundancy five days ago. This holiday belongs to politicians and the media industry more than it does to black Americans who already celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and the Emancipation Proclamation. But Ellison saw Juneteenth as “the celebration of a gaudy illusion,” more complex than the current administration looking to maneuver the black electorate. The novel Juneteenth, published by Random House on June 19, 1999, questioned celebrants pursuing “an illusion of emancipation, and getting it mixed up with the Resurrection, minstrel shows and vaudeville routines.” Ellison’s skepticism is missing from the media’s glut of gaudy race fantasies, fiction and nonfiction. Government edicts do not negate the distortions we’ve witnessed in media and contemporary political rhetoric but may well be part of those falsehoods. Ellison knew better. Juneteenth’s plot combines politics, religion, folklore, and Hollywood, satirizing our racial misperceptions and misrepresentations. Ellison presciently described our difficulty achieving democracy as a temperamental and moral failure “to become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.” Juneteenth investigates the patterns of art that contemporary filmmakers have botched. They, instead, have aged, warped, and defamed America’s racial history into a pattern of loveless grumbling and narcissism. Juneteenth, planned as a three-section epic, was collated from voluminous drafts by Ellison’s literary executor, John Callahan. (A second edition, Three Days Before the Shooting, was published in 2010.) Still, it is a colossal example of black American creativity, self-assertion, and self-definition, which is especially important today when black identity is largely manipulated by others. (Ellison’s Juneteenth has been ignored the same way the Black Lives Matter organization neglects the black American condition for its own seditious political objectives.) #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d513 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d513 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d513 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d513 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d937 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d937 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d937 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817d937 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817db9a .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817db9a .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817db9a { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817db9a .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817dd0c .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817dd0c .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817dd0c { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817dd0c .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817de72 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817de72 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817de72 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60d30d817de72 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Reading Juneteenth makes one realize that the only people fooled by the recent Juneteenth ploy are those who are led by the media or who have not read Ellison. It’s a visionary work, conceived back in 1956, about a race-baiting politician, “a little boy of indefinite race who looks white and who, through a series of circumstances, come to be reared by the Negro minister.” Between the two central figures, Senator Adam Sunraider and Baptist preacher Alonzo Hickman, Ellison examines the personality cults, racial deception, and violence that politicians inspire. So the unfinished novel remains a prodigious work-in-progress. (Given Ellison’s prophetic insight regarding misinterpreted messaging, Hickman’s nickname — God’s Trombone — might be a better title than Three Days Before the Shooting.) The storytelling flows into dead ends and cul-de-sacs. Pages of italics recall the different tenses of thought in Absalom, Absalom because Ellison’s sense of history’s impact and literature’s ability to grapple with it owes much to those fabulist historians William Faulkner and Mark Twain. But Ellison’s conscious alarm about cinema is surprisingly modern, detailed in Sunraider’s fascination with moviemaking as myth-making. An astounding narration from the inside of a coffin evokes the legendary “impossible” shot in Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr. He defines a surrealist silent-movie montage “as though the rambling impressions of an idiot’s day had been photographed . . . all images ran to chaos, as though Sherman’s army had traumatized his sense of order forever.” This unexpected sophistication about electronic media puts Juneteenth in direct opposition to today’s media fabrications. Ellison was born in Oklahoma City and a reference to Tulsa, Okla., surpasses the terrible Tulsa legacy exploited so shamelessly in several recent, trivial TV shows merely to further the partisan mission to incite black unrest — trauma porn. Juneteenth celebrations clearly expose the unprincipled political con games being perpetrated upon American thought and language. Ellison lays out the missing principles in a great passage: And later whenever instead of taking in a scene the camera seemed to focus forth my own point of view I felt murderous, felt that justifiable murder was being committed and my images a blasting of the world. I felt sometimes that a duplicity was being commissioned, an ambuscade trained upon those who thought they knew themselves and me. And yet I felt that I was myself a dupe because there was always the question aroused by my ability to see into events and the awareness of the joke implicit in my being me. . . . What is this desire to identify with others, this need to extend myself and test my most far-fetched possibilities with only the agency of shadows? Merely shadows. By that alone, Juneteenth should inspire a day when we smarten up and reject media mendacity. Ellison didn’t live to pull Juneteenth together; nevertheless, it is a necessary read to counter the Washington, Hollywood, and media treachery that has perverted a moment of liberation and instituted a national holiday of perpetual grievance. Callahan notes Ellison’s concern with “false as well as true liberation and of the courage to tell the difference . . . [using the] vernacular creed of experiment and experience.” He relates it to Ellison’s canny definition: “To be an American is truly to accept the hero’s task as a condition of our everyday living and to bring it off with conscious ease!” The unfinished Juneteenth relates to the unfinished work of democracy.

Making the Case for Capitalism

Outside the New York Stock Exchange in 2015 (Carlo Allegri/Reuters) Capital Matters is here to explain, defend, and celebrate the greatest force for prosperity in the world. Capitalism has done more to reduce poverty and increase prosperity across the planet than any other system. And yet it finds itself under attack — from across the political spectrum, and, more frequently than you would expect, from within: Some of capitalism’s (or, more specifically, shareholder capitalism’s) fiercest critics are now to be found in the C-suite. That’s why, last year, National Review Institute (NRI), the nonprofit think tank that supports National Review’s mission, established Capital Matters as a project to explain, defend, and celebrate capitalism, both in print and beyond it. Capital Matters’s hub is its position on the NationalReview.com page. There, aided and abetted by our senior adviser Kevin Hassett, NRI’s Thomas L. Rhodes fellow Daniel Tenreiro, and I oversee the publication of a flow of articles focused on finance, economics, and business, including a good number written by authors who had never before (or only rarely) contributed to National Review. We aim to bring in new readers, too. We also produce a four-days-a-week newsletter, the Capital Note; a weekly newsletter, the Capital Letter (both are emailed out to newsletter subscribers: It’s complimentary!); and a weekly podcast, the Capital Record, hosted by financier and NRI trustee David L. Bahnsen. We have held webinars, of which the most recent was a discussion on inflation between economist Kevin Hassett and Rich Lowry, and, with the pandemic receding, are slowly resuming a program of in-person lunch and evening meetings, which will extend well beyond the Acela Corridor. This work is only possible thanks to NRI, and thus the generous support of its donors. Through our general membership (starting at $250) and our 1955 Society membership (starting at $1,000), NRI has created a robust community of supporters across the country. With the end of our fiscal year around the corner, we are asking for your philanthropic support of our cause before June 30. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to NRI to sustain our educational and outreach programs that amplify conservative ideas, including the defense of free markets — and the freedom and the prosperity that they make possible. In recent years, it has seemed to us that the case for capitalism is being lost by default. Outside of this enterprise, arguments for free markets are not being made where they should be made, when they should be made, and by whom they should be made, with consequences that are already becoming visible, and not in a good way. Our objective is to help remedy that absence by being a voice — and a platform for voices — where now there is all, too frequently, silence. Please join us by giving a tax-deductible contribution before June 30. We are grateful for your support and encouragement.

End the Moratorium on Evictions

Apartment building in Redwood City, Calif. (Andrei Stanescu/Getty Images) Throughout the COVID-19 episode, we have had many reminders of one of the permanent truths of government: It is far, far easier to end an emergency than to end an emergency program — as evidenced, most recently, by progressive calls to extend the moratorium on evictions. It is important to bear in mind who imposed the moratorium and why: It was imposed by the Centers for Disease Control as a measure meant to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. There have always been significant legal questions about whether the moratorium could be rationalized as a regulation of interstate commerce (since rental agreements are overwhelmingly intrastate transactions). Moreover, even assuming arguendo the validity of such a measure imposed by the executive branch (given that the Constitution empowers Congress, not the president, to regulate commerce), there is significant reason to doubt that the moratorium decree was within the statutory authority Congress has granted to the CDC. But all that aside, the time for this stated justification has clearly passed. COVID-19 infection rates have collapsed, about half of the population has been fully vaccinated, and more than three-quarters of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine. While it is possible that the facts on the ground may change, for now the evidence all suggests that the eviction moratorium is no longer justified as a public-health measure, if it ever was. It is not much justified as an economic measure — and never really was. Our left-wing friends talk about landlords as though they were all twirling their mustaches like Snidely Whiplash when not rolling in piles of gold ducats like Scrooge McDuck. In reality, many landlords are small businesses or individuals, some of whom have low incomes. Low-income landlords tend to derive a greater share of their household incomes from rent than do higher-income landlords, meaning that eviction moratoria do not prevent economic hardship but merely transfer it from one party to another. Rent subsidies and other emergency measures were in many cases both fitting and prudent during the lockdowns, when many people who wanted to work simply couldn’t, and unemployment peaked at nearly 15 percent. But unemployment has fallen rapidly since then, and the May report found the jobless rate under 6 percent. Wages have been rising. If anything, our current economic problem is a shortage of workers rather than a shortage of jobs. Even as wages have gone up and unemployment has gone down, the workforce participation rate has remained stubbornly low, far below its pre-COVID level. What that means is that there are jobs to be had and paychecks to be earned, but a great many potential workers have decided to stay on the sidelines. Ending the eviction moratorium and other emergency measures may help the labor market return to something closer to normal. But more important is the fact that it will return to Americans control of their own property, preventing unnecessary losses for rental companies and the outright economic ruination of some smaller landlords. State and local rental-assistance programs remain available to those in need, along with the usual array of federal housing supports. It is time to wind down the crisis — and the crisis mentality, too.
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