Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why We'll Leave L.A.

Why We'll Leave L.A. By RICK NEWCOMBE
The business climate is worse than the air quality.
WSJ, jul 10, 2009

Los Angeles

If New Yorkers fantasize that doing business here in Los Angeles would be less of a headache, forget about it. This city is fast becoming a job-killing machine. It's no accident the unemployment rate is a frightening 11.4% and climbing.

I never could have imagined that, after living here for more than three decades, I would be filing a lawsuit against my beloved Los Angeles and making plans for my company, Creators Syndicate, to move elsewhere.

But we have no choice. The city's bureaucrats rival Stalin's apparatchiks in issuing decrees, rescinding them, and then punishing citizens for having followed them in the first place.
I founded Creators Syndicate in 1987, and we have represented hundreds of important writers, syndicating their columns to newspapers and Web sites around the world. The most famous include Hillary Clinton, who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote a syndicated column when she was first lady. Another star was the advice columnist Ann Landers, once described by "The World Almanac" as "the most influential woman in America." Other Creators columnists include Bill O'Reilly, Susan Estrich, Thomas Sowell, Roland Martin and Michelle Malkin -- plus Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonists and your favorite comic strips.

From the beginning, we've been headquartered in Los Angeles. But 15 years ago we had a dispute with the city over our business tax classification. The city argued that we should be in an "occupations and professions" classification that has an extremely high tax rate, while we fought for a "wholesale and retail" classification with a much lower rate. The city forced us to invest a small fortune in legal fees over two years, but we felt it was worth it in order to establish the correct classification once and for all.

After enduring a series of bureaucratic hearings, we anxiously awaited a ruling to find out what our tax rate would be. Everything was at stake. We had already decided that if we lost, we would move.

You can imagine how relieved we were on July 1, 1994, when the ruling was issued. We won, and firmly planted our roots in the City of Angels and proceeded to build our business.

Everything was fine until the city started running out of money in 2007. Suddenly, the city announced that it was going to ignore its own ruling and reclassify us in the higher tax category. Even more incredible is the fact that the new classification was to be imposed retroactively to 2004 with interest and penalties. No explanation was given for the new classification, or for the city's decision to ignore its 1994 ruling.

Their official position is that the city is not bound by past rulings -- only taxpayers are. This is why we have been forced to file a lawsuit. We will let the courts decide whether it is legal for adverse rulings to apply only to taxpayers and not to the city.

We work with hundreds of outside agents, consultants, independent contractors and support services -- many of whom pay taxes to the city of Los Angeles. This spurs a job-creating ripple effect on the city's economy. Yet I suspect many companies like ours already have quietly left town in the face of the city's taxes and regulations. This would help explain the erosion of jobs.
Regardless of the outcome of our case, the arbitrary and capricious behavior of some bureaucrats is creating a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. If we win in court, the taxpayers of Los Angeles will have lost because all those tax dollars will have been wasted on needless litigation.

If we lose in court, the remaining taxpayers in Los Angeles will have lost because their burden will continue to swell as yet another business moves its jobs -- and taxpayers -- to another city.
As long as City Hall operates like a banana republic, why is anyone surprised that jobs have left the city in droves and Los Angeles is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy?

Mr. Newcombe is president of Creators Syndicate.

King Canute at the G-8

King Canute at the G-8. WSJ Editorial
World leaders tell the Earth's temperature not to rise.
WSJ, Jul 10, 2009

"When King Canute of lore wanted to teach his citizens a lesson, he set his throne by the seashore and commanded the tides to roll out. Canute's spirit was back in business this week at the G-8 summit in Italy, where the assembled leaders declared that the world's temperature shall not rise: 'We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees [Celsius],' or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, said the summit declaration.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

As for how they will achieve this climate-defying feat, well, the leaders were somewhat less definitive: 'we will work . . . to identify a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050.'"

Fact Sheets: U.S. Commitment to Development

Fact Sheets: U.S. Commitment to Development
State Dept, Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of the Spokesman, Washington, DC, Thu, 09 Jul 2009 13:16:33 -0500

“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”-President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, January 20th, 2009

“We are committed to pursuing peace and prosperity in every corner – not only in the marble halls of governments, but also in the rural villages and distant cities where people strive to live, work, learn, raise families, contribute to their communities, and grow old with dignity. These are universal dreams that we seek to make a reality for more of the world’s people.”-Secretary Hillary Clinton, Remarks on World Refugee Day, June 20th, 2009

The United Nations reaffirmed the 2002 Monterrey Consensus for development at the International Conference on Financing for Development at Doha in 2008, calling on developing countries to establish sound economic, social and governance policies and calling on developed countries to support these efforts through an open trading system, private capital flows, and development assistance. The United States is working with other donors and multilateral development banks to ensure that all sources of development finance are available to developing countries as we pass through and beyond the global economic crisis. The United States is strongly committed to helping the world's poor through a broad variety of mechanisms. Preliminary 2008 U.S. Official Development Assistance (ODA) indicates that ODA has tripled over the last decade, and President Obama has pledged further increases.[1]

The U.S. Record
  • World’s largest donor of bilateral foreign assistance.
  • World’s largest donor of combined multilateral development assistance.
  • The United States disbursed $26 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in calendar year 2008, a $4.2 billion, or 19% increase from the 2007 level.
  • U.S. bilateral ODA to sub-Saharan Africa increased to $6.5 billion in 2008 from $4.6 billion in 2007.
  • U.S. bilateral ODA to least developed countries increased to $6.9 billion in 2008.
  • $6.4 billion committed to Millennium Challenge poverty reduction Compacts in 18 countries.
  • $25 billion in bilateral and multilateral HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis funding through 2009.$4.4 billion in U.S. humanitarian assistance provided in 2008.
  • Top net goods importer from developing countries at $610 billion in 2008 ($1,089 billion in imports minus $479 billion in exports). Excluding China, net developing country imports total $325 billion in 2008 ($733 billion in imports minus $408 billion in exports).
  • World’s largest provider of private financial flows to the developing world with net capital flows exceeding $99 billion in 2007.
Full fact sheet available at:

[1] All 2008 ODA data cited are preliminary figures. Final 2008 ODA data will be released in November 2009.

PRN: 2009/697

Do We Need a Second Stimulus? Why so little is being spent from the first

Do We Need a Second Stimulus? By EDWARD P. LAZEAR
A more troubling question is why so little is being spent from the first.
WSJ, Jul 09, 2009

In "Brewster's Millions," a comedy starring Richard Pryor, a man is told he can keep $300 million if he manages to spend $30 million in one month. The movie documents -- with a great deal of humor -- his difficulties getting the money spent. The Obama administration is currently facing a similar problem with its "stimulus" spending, only without the humor.

With the economy weak and the labor market continuing to decline, there is now talk of a second stimulus (which is actually the third, counting President Bush's 2008 tax rebates). This would be a mistake. The truth is there hasn't been any stimulus to speak of so far this year. Moreover, what's being called stimulus is just a smoke screen for a permanent expansion of government. Let's start with some facts.

By June 26, about $56 billion was spent on the stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, passed Feb. 17. A large proportion of that actually reflects mere transfers from the federal government to state governments, so the amount that has gotten into the economy is significantly lower.

But even if we call all of the $56 billion spending, it's still not enough to make a meaningful impact. By this point of the year in 2008, the Bush administration's tax-rebates got out about $80 billion. Most economists believe the rebates had a positive but hardly dramatic effect on the economy.

The Obama stimulus, being significantly smaller, cannot possibly be expected to turn the economy around. The economy will improve. But it will do so because the financial sector is recovering, largely due to the Fed policies to enhance liquidity and the success of the Bush administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program, continued by the Obama team, in helping to recapitalize the banks.

Congress and the Obama administration have used the economic downturn as an excuse to expand the size of government. Calling it a stimulus, they have instead put in place a spending agenda that will unfold over the next two years. Although a little over one-third of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 goes to tax relief, the rest is in the form of spending programs that will be difficult to stop once they are up and running.

Only a small share of the spending will occur in 2009, even though Keynesians would argue that stimulus spending should be frontloaded to kick-start growth. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the largest share of the spending will occur in 2010, with the amount in 2011 being slightly larger than in 2009. Again, the timing exacerbates the problem: It will be tough to cut back on spending written into budgets as far out as 2011.

Additional evidence that the Obama administration wants to expand government rather than stimulate the economy comes from the president's own statements about deficit reduction. When the budget came out, he announced a goal of reducing the deficit to around 4% of GDP by 2013, at which point the administration believes the economy will be fully recovered. Yet to keep the ratio of public debt to GDP constant, the deficit must actually stay below about 2.7%.

For perspective, recall that the Bush deficit, which has been criticized for being too large, reached a peak of 3.6% of GDP in 2004. But it fell steadily to 1.2% of GDP by 2007 before rising again to about 3% after TARP.

Some argue that a tax cut is a weaker stimulus than direct government spending. This point is debated among economists. But it is clearly much easier for Treasury to write checks to the public than it is to get agencies to rev up spending programs and do so in a way that does not simply throw away money.

It's a bit odd that the reaction by the Obama administration and some congressional leaders to a policy that has not worked is to consider putting a similar policy in place. One interpretation is that this is yet another opportunity to spend more on programs that Democrats have wanted for years.

It may be the case that the country wants more government, that Americans now believe the European model of big government is best. That is a decision that society must make. But it should do so with no illusions: The current stimulus and calls for a future one are primarily government growth policies, not strategies to shorten the current recession.

Mr. Lazear, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 2006-09, is a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and a Hoover Institution fellow.

Systemic Risk and the Fed

Systemic Risk and the Fed. By ROBERT C. POZEN
It is a mistake to give the central bank vast new regulatory powers.
WSJ, Jul 09, 2009

Congress is currently debating how to cope with the widespread ripple effects when a large financial institution fails or a risky financial product blows up. The U.S. Treasury has proposed that a council of eight regulatory agencies be appointed to monitor the so-called problem of systemic risk. Treasury also wants the Federal Reserve to become the exclusive regulator of all financial institutions deemed systemically risky.

This gets things backward.

If the risk monitoring function is delegated to a council, no single agency will take the lead or likely take responsibility. Moreover, the U.S. needs one contact point to coordinate risk monitoring with other countries.

The most logical choice to monitor systemic risk is the Fed. This function is consistent with the Fed's broad review of economic and market developments, which is part of its traditional role in setting interest rates. In this role, the Fed takes a long-term perspective, which is critical to risk monitoring.

More importantly, the Fed has emergency lending powers to prevent a financial institution from suddenly failing. If the remedial action involves a bank holding company, it already has the power to act. If another type of financial institution is at risk, the Fed should work with the relevant regulatory agency to implement a plan. Disagreements should be settled by the council.

But the Fed should not be the exclusive regulator of all institutions posing a systemic risk. It's not possible to identify in advance such institutions; they'll change as market conditions change. Systemic risks also can arise from new products, like credit derivatives, which are used by institutions of various sizes. The Fed would not be able to develop enough expertise to regulate so many different types of financial firms -- hedge funds, pension plans, money funds and insurance companies, as well as banks.

Instead, large financial institutions should continue to be supervised by their functional regulators, such as the SEC in the case of money market funds. The other great benefit of this approach is that it avoids labeling an institution in advance as systemically risky. Once the government uses this label, investors will assume that the institution will always be bailed out by the government.

Giving the Fed the authority to monitor risk but not new regulatory authority also avoids granting it too much power. A good case can be made that the Fed already has too much power, and should give up its current authority to set customer rules for mortgages and credit cards. The Fed should be focused on macroeconomic issues -- not consumer protection.

To be sure, there are gaps in the current system of regulation that should be closed. For example, Congress should require most managers of hedge funds to register with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act.

Such registration would subject those managers to periodic inspections without limiting their investment strategies. Furthermore, a handful of very large hedge funds (e.g., with assets over $25 billion) should submit to the SEC and the Fed nonpublic reports that include information, such as their leverage ratios, which are relevant to the monitoring of systemic risk.

Congress also should create a federal charter and agency for a small number of giant life insurers. AIG's collapse shows that a giant insurer can have adverse repercussions for the entire financial system. For that reason, almost all countries have a federal regulator of large insurance companies. The states will no doubt object, but they can continue to regulate property-casualty insurers and most life insurers.

In short, I believe the Treasury's proposal for dealing with systemic risk is misguided. To ensure that a risk monitor is accountable, the function should be located in a single entity. To supervise specific financial institutions and practices, however, Congress should look to the traditional functional regulators that already have the expertise necessary to understand and resolve issues specific to these institutions.

Mr. Pozen, chairman of MFS Investment Management, is the author of "Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System," forthcoming from John Wiley.

A comparatively poor, high-immigration town across the border from super-violent Ciudad Juarez is one of the safest big cities in America

The El Paso Miracle. By Radley Balko
How can a comparatively poor, high-immigration town that sits across the border from super-violent Ciudad Juarez be one of the safest big cities in America?
Reason, July 6, 2009

By conventional wisdom, El Paso, Texas should be one of the scariest cities in America. In 2007, the city's poverty rate was a shade over 27 percent, more than twice the national average. Median household income was $35,600, well below the national average of $48,000. El Paso is three-quarters Hispanic, and more than a quarter of its residents are foreign-born. Given that it's nearly impossible for low-skilled immigrants to work in the United States legitimately, it's safe to say that a significant percentage of El Paso's foreign-born population is living here illegally.

El Paso also has some of the laxer gun control policies of any non-Texan big city in the country, mostly due to gun-friendly state law. And famously, El Paso sits just over the Rio Grande from one of the most violent cities in the western hemisphere, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, home to a staggering 2,500 homicides in the last 18 months alone. A city of illegal immigrants with easy access to guns, just across the river from a metropolis ripped apart by brutal drug war violence. Should be a bloodbath, right?

Here's the surprise: There were just 18 murders in El Paso last year, in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings. In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23).El Paso is among the safest big cities in America. For the better part of the last decade, only Honolulu has had a lower violent crime rate (El Paso slipped to third last year, behind New York). Men's Health magazine recently ranked El Paso the second "happiest" city in America, right after Laredo, Texas—another border town, where the Hispanic population is approaching 95 percent.

So how has this city of poor immigrants become such an anomaly? Actually, it may not be an anomaly at all. Many criminologists say El Paso isn't safe despite its high proportion of immigrants, it's safe because of them."If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population," says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. "

If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you're likely in one of the country's safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they're some of the safest places in the country."

If you regularly listen to talk radio, or get your crime news from anti-immigration pundits, all of this may come as a surprise. But it's not to many of those who study crime for a living. As the national immigration debate heated up in 2007, dozens of academics who specialize in the issue sent a letter (pdf) to then President George W. Bush and congressional leaders with the following point:

Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San Diego and El Paso.

One of the signatories was Rubén G. Rumbaut, a sociologist who studies immigration at the University of California, Irvine. Rumbaut recently presented a paper on immigration and crime to a Washington, D.C. conference sponsored by the Police Foundation. Rumbaut writes via email, "The evidence points overwhelmingly to the same conclusion: Rates of crime and conviction for undocumented immigrants are far below those for the native born, and that is especially the case for violent crimes, including murder."

Opponents of illegal immigration usually do little more than cite andecdotes attempting to link illegal immigration to violent crime. When they do try to use statistics, they come up short. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), for example, has perpetuated the popular myth that illegal immigrants murder 12 Americans per day, and kill another 13 by driving drunk. King says his figures come from a Government Accountability Office study he requested, which found that about 27 percent of inmates in the federal prison system are non-citizens. Colorado Media Matters looked into King's claim, and found his methodology lacking. King appears to have conjured his talking point by simply multiplying the annual number of murders and DWI fatalities in America by 27 percent. Of course, the GAO report only looked at federal prisons, not the state prisons and local jails where most convicted murderers and DWI offenders are kept. The Bureau of Justice Statistics puts the number of non-citizens (including legal immigrants) in state, local, and federal prisons and jails at about 6.4 percent (pdf). Of course, even that doesn't mean that non-citizens account for 6.4 percent of murders and DWI fatalities, only 6.4 percent of the overall inmate population.

What's happening with Latinos is true of most immigrant groups throughout U.S. history. "Overall, immigrants have a stake in this country, and they recognize it," Northeastern University's Levin says. "They're really an exceptional sort of American. They come here having left their family and friends back home. They come at some cost to themselves in terms of security and social relationships. They are extremely success-oriented, and adjust very well to the competitive circumstances in the United States." Economists Kristin Butcher and Anne Morrison Piehl argue that the very process of migration tends to select for people with a low potential for criminality.

Despite the high profile of polemicists such as Lou Dobbs and Michael Savage, America has been mostly welcoming to this latest immigration wave. You don't see "Latinos Need Not Apply" or "No Mexicans" signs posted on public buildings the way you did with the Italians and the Irish, two groups who actually were disproportionately likely to turn to crime. The implication makes sense: An immigrant group's propensity for criminality may be partly determined by how they're received in their new country.

"Look at Arab-Americans in the Midwest, especially in the Detroit area," Levin says. "The U.S. and Canada have traditionally been very willing to welcome and integrate them. They're a success story, with high average incomes and very little crime. That's not the case in Europe. Countries like France and Germany are openly hostile to Arabs. They marginalize them. And they've seen waves of crime and rioting."

El Paso may be a concentrated affirmation of that theory. In 2007 the Washington Post reported on city leaders' wariness of anti-immigration policies coming out of Washington. The city went to court (and lost) in an effort to prevent construction of the border fence within its boundaries, and local officials have resisted federal efforts to enlist local police for immigration enforcement, arguing that it would make illegals less likely to cooperate with police. "Most people in Washington really don't understand life on the border," El Paso Mayor John Cook told the Post. "They don't understand our philosophy here that the border joins us together, it doesn't separate us."Other mayors could learn something from Cook. El Paso's embrace of its immigrants might be a big reason why the low-income border town has remained one of the safest places in the country.

Radley Balko is a senior editor of Reason magazine.

Obama v. the Tort Lawyers - The president's Auto Task Force worked hard to shield the new GM from jackpot justice

Obama v. the Tort Lawyers. WSJ Editorial
The president's Auto Task Force worked hard to shield the new GM from jackpot justice.
WSJ, Jul 09, 2009

Ask a CEO or small business owner to list his biggest economic problems, and near the top is always the depredations of the tort bar. Would you believe Uncle Sam feels the same way when he's the owner?

Apparently so, if we can judge from the sensible behavior of the Obama Administration's Auto Task Force. General Motors could emerge from bankruptcy as soon as today, leaving the federal government with a majority stake in the car maker. And it turns out the task force worked hard to shield the new GM from jackpot justice.

In its original reorganization plan, the Administration even proposed to leave behind in the old GM all tort claims arising from cars manufactured before bankruptcy. That would have meant that all past, present and future claims related to cars GM produced before June would have had next to no chance of meaningful recovery, as they would have had to stand in line with every other unsecured creditor of the bankrupt firm.

This was the arrangement approved by the courts in Chrysler's bankruptcy, and the task force sought to repeat the feat with GM. But 11 state Attorneys General and a group of tort lawyers cried foul and filed an objection to the bankruptcy plan with the court. In the end the Administration agreed to leave liability for future claims with the new company, while leaving behind current suits.

That's at least something. And the task force's attempt to shed these lawsuit liabilities shows that the feds recognize how expensive it can be to get caught in the sights of the tort lawyers. If only the Administration could see the issue with the same clarity when the targets of its trial-bar supporters are privately owned companies.

The Public Option Two-Step

The Public Option Two-Step. WSJ Editorial
Why Obama won't acknowledge the 'Trojan Horse' in the room.
WSJ, Jul 09, 2009

Americans unschooled in liberal health-care politics may have trouble deciphering the White House's conflicting proclamations this week about a new government insurance program for the middle class. Allow us to translate: President Obama loves this so-called public option, but he needs to sell it in a shroud of euphemism and the appearance of "compromise."

On Monday, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told the Journal's Laura Meckler that the Administration would accept a health bill without a public option, as long as there is "a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest . . . The goal is non-negotiable; the path is." Progressives went bonkers, so on Tuesday Mr. Obama took a break from his Moscow trip to come out strongly in favor (again) of the new trillion-dollar entitlement. Meanwhile, New York's Chuck Schumer has been loudly suggesting that compromise is unnecessary given 60 Senate Democrats -- even as the likes of Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu back away.

The reason left-flank Democrats are so adamant about a public option is because they know it is an opening wedge for the government to dominate U.S. health care. That's also why the health-care industry, business groups, some moderates and most Republicans are opposed. Team Obama likes the policies of the first group but wants the political support of the second. And they're trying to solve this Newtonian problem -- irresistible forces, immovable objects -- by becoming less and less candid about the changes they really favor.

Mr. Emanuel echoes his boss and says a government health plan is needed to keep the private sector "honest," but then why don't we also need a state-run oil company, or nationalized grocery store chain? (Or auto maker? Never mind.) The real goal is to create a program backstopped by taxpayers that can exert political leverage over the market.

In its strongest version, the federal plan would receive direct cash subsidies, allowing it to undercut private insurers on consumer prices. This would quickly lead to "crowd out," the tendency of supposedly "free" public programs to displace private insurance. As a general rule, Congress has to spend $2 of taxpayer money to provide $1 in new benefits. More precise academic studies of expansions in Medicaid and the children's insurance program put the crowd-out effect somewhere between 25% and 60%.

Because this is so expensive, the public version Mr. Schumer favors would supposedly receive no special advantages. But this is meaningless when Democrats are planning to mandate the benefits that private insurers must provide, the patients they must accept, and how much they can charge. Oh, and a government plan would still have an implicit taxpayer guarantee a la Fannie Mae, giving it an inherent cost-of-capital advantage.

A few swing votes such as Maine's Olympia Snowe might accept a "trigger," in which a government-run plan would only come on line if certain targets aren't met, such as reducing costs. But that only delays the day of reckoning. Another pseudocompromise is North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad's idea to give the states seed money to set up health insurance co-ops. These plans would still be run under a federal charter and managed by a federal board, so they merely split the public option into 50 pieces.

The other goal of a new public plan is to force doctors and hospitals to accept below-cost fees. This is how Medicare tries to control costs today, but it's like squeezing a balloon: Lower reimbursements mean that providers -- especially hospitals -- must recoup their costs elsewhere, either by shifting costs onto private payers or with more billable tests and procedures. The only way costs can conceivably be managed via price controls is if government is running the whole show, which naturally leads to severe restrictions on care while medical innovation withers.

A rhetorical gong Mr. Obama has been banging a lot lately is the idea that the people pointing all this out are liars. "When you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care," he said in one speech, "know this: They're not telling the truth." He adds that opposition to a public option isn't "based on any evidence" and that it is "illegitimate" to argue that his program is "is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system."

So much for changing the political tone. Perhaps the President should check in with his more honest liberal allies. Jacob Hacker, now a professor of political science at Berkeley, came up with the intellectual architecture for the public option when he was a graduate student in the 1990s. "Someone once said to me, 'This is a Trojan horse for single payer,' and I said, 'Well, it's not a Trojan horse, right? It's just right there,'" Mr. Hacker explained in a speech last year. "I'm telling you, we're going to get there, over time, slowly."

The real question the political class is debating now is how slowly, or quickly, it takes to get there. And how they're best able to disguise this goal -- ideally as a "compromise."