Global businessman Trump challenges globalism’s conventional wisdom (Ward Op-ed)

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Watchdog.org reporter Kenric Ward analyzed the political backlash over President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration in an op-ed that appeared in the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and other Texas newspapers:

Can we all take a breath and calm down?

The political backlash over President Donald Trump’s refugee and immigrant “ban” has gone beyond knee-jerk partisanship. The furor has abandoned reason.

It’s not clear if that’s because Trump’s opponents have yet to figure out he is not going to kowtow to their cherished conventional wisdom, or because they have figured it out.

Whichever is the case, they should prepare themselves for more of the same.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama designated seven countries as a security threat for U.S. travelers. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were cited, based on the threat of terrorism there.

The global situation has not improved, and Trump is not convinced U.S. border security is up to the task. So he directed that individuals from the terrorist-sponsoring countries not be admitted until they can be fully vetted.

Trump’s order is temporary, with security policies being reviewed and updated over the next 90 days.

More could follow. What that is will be determined by the outcome of the review.

But rather than wait and see what evolves, the opposition went immediately into full panic mode.

Could the new administration — in its whirlwind of executive orders, initiatives and appointments — have done a better job implementing the order? Certainly. More clarity on the status of green-card holders would have helped.

But Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday denied news reports that he was blindsided by Trump’s order (which, by the way, is consistently identified as “controversial” in media accounts, a word never applied to Medicaid, for example, which has been just as controversial and for a lot longer).

“We knew the executive order was coming,” Kelly said. “We had people involved in the general drafting of it. Clearly this whole approach was part of what then-candidate Trump talked about for a year or two. So we knew all this was coming.”

Kelly may as well have been talking to the wind. The false narrative that the president cut corners gave his opponents all the ammunition they needed to blast the policy and point to fictional fissures inside the new administration.

Let’s be clear. Amid their reactionary harangues, left-wing ideologues — including an increasingly desperate Democratic Party that was left by the November elections without a seat at either the executive or legislative tables — have demonstrated no firm allegiance to national security. They may not wish America ill when they mouth the glib diversity-is-our-strength mantra, but their agenda sows disunity and disrespect in this country, where we all bleed red.

Trump’s robust brand of nationalism also chafes global businesses, which see international travel as a borderless right.

But entering the United States is a privilege, and the executive branch has a legal duty to safeguard this country.

While the global economy has opened new opportunities for economic growth and prosperity, we live in an era in which commercial worship of that global economy has also opened the gates to global terror and made the world a more dangerous place.

In the irony of ironies, a businessman with global connections challenges the conventional wisdom that open borders are an inevitable good. Battered by a loss of jobs and growing insecurity, Americans elected Trump to break America’s dysfunctional political duopoly.

The country wants prosperity and safety. Trump is working for both those objectives. His detractors offer only shrill objections.

Here’s why Enterprise Florida is a bad investment for state taxpayers (Bicknell Op-Ed)

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Watchdog.org executive editor John Bicknell wrote the following op-ed, published in the Orlando Sentinel, explaining why Florida’s economic incentive agency, Enterprise Florida, isn’t a good investment of tax dollars:

The battle over the future of Enterprise Florida is, in microcosm, the battle over the role of government – what should it be doing, and who should it be doing it for?

Republican Gov. Rick Scott wants $85 million this year to fund Enterprise Florida, the state’s primary provider of incentives intended to lure new business to the state and keep existing ones.

But Enterprise Florida and other state economic development programs are not producing enough jobs or return on investment to justify the expense.

A review of Enterprise Florida Inc. and the Department of Economic Opportunity — the state’s major incentive providers – by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability looked at a decade of data on those two criteria, the most-often cited justifications for giving taxpayer money to private businesses, judging Florida against seven other states.

Florida didn’t fare so well, trailing in overall job growth as well as high-wage job creation.

The agencies are also failing as producers of revenue for the state government.

According to Amy Baker, Florida’s chief economist and legislative coordinator for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, of the state’s 26 incentive programs, 18 failed to produce enough tax revenue to break even. 

Click here for the full op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel.

The next battlegrounds for school choice: Stubborn red states (Glass Op-Ed)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Where can school choice advance in 2017? Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass takes a closer look at the education landscape in red states:

The sweeping successes of Republicans nationwide in the 2016 elections presents a huge opportunity for the school choice movement. Republicans have historically been more friendly to school choice than Democrats, and they now have 33 governorships and full control of 32 state legislatures.

Unfortunately, Republican control doesn’t always equal the best outcomes for students. In places like Texas and Mississippi, hundreds of thousands of students sit on waitlists for choice programs despite Republican control in both of those states.

“Mississippi is a little late to the school choice dance,” education activist Kevin Chavrous said, according to Mississippi Watchdog. The state has a choice program, but that “only a small percentage of Mississippi students are able to take advantage, and opportunities need to be expanded.” Reformers there are working with legislators.

Watchdog Texas reported that the state “remains a laggard” in this important area, and that the Republican speaker of the house has been an opponent of expansion of school choice programs. The status quo policies are what keep a reported 120,000 students on waitlists to get out of failing public schools.

Click here for the full op-ed in the Washington Examiner. 

Neily Op-Ed at RedState

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You: The Franklin Center’s Amicus Brief In Hall V. McRaven

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity filed an amicus brief in a case before the Texas Supreme Court. President Nicole Neily explains why at RedState:

For years, well-connected applicants to the University of Texas benefitted from a secret admissions process; hundreds of applicants who would otherwise have been denied admission to the school were accepted due to the influence of powerful legislators, friends, or family members. But thanks to strong-willed whistleblowers and dedicated journalists, the scandal was uncovered in 2013, culminating in the resignation of UT-Austin President Bill Powers.

The University’s official investigation initially discovered very little wrongdoing; a subsequent report by the independent firm Kroll Associates found more widespread abuse. Watchdog.org’s Jon Cassidy also investigated this scandal, discovering that at least 764 people were admitted to the University of Texas that would not have been under the admissions standards typically applied to applicants. “The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge… students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades,” Cassidy found.

The full extent of the malfeasance, however, remains unknown; many have hypothesized that the Kroll report may have publicly downplayed the scope of the scandal. Accordingly, Wallace Hall, a member of the UT Board of Regents, has repeatedly requested – and been denied – access to the full set of documents compiled by Kroll. Hall was forced to turn to the courts, filing suit against University Chancellor William McRaven in a case that will be heard by the Texas Supreme Court today.

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the publisher of Watchdog.org, filed an amicus brief in support of Hall, because of the implications that Hall’s case has for transparency and oversight of government boards throughout the state of Texas. We have requested some of the same information at issue in this case, and are currently in litigation with the University of Texas system in a Public Information Act case. 

In our brief, we assert that “release of the information at issue in this case is vital for proper government of UT, and the stated grounds for withholding it are symptomatic of institutional drift of governmental bodies in the Texas and the U.S. to insulate themselves from the public they are intended to serve.”

Read more at RedState.

Glass Op-Ed Published in the Washington Examiner

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Conservatives may miss an opportunity in the battle against ‘fake news’

The term ‘fake news’ is thrown around a lot these days, but there’s a real problem with fabricated news designed to look real. Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass writes that while conservatives have been skeptical of efforts to crack down on ‘fake news,’ that doesn’t mean they should stand on the sidelines of this debate.

Not long after the conclusion of the 2016 election, leaders at Facebook and Google announced they would be trying to crack down on “fake news” that became common on their sites. They defined “fake news” as stories fabricated wholesale that appeared on legitimate-looking sites designed to trick people into thinking they were reading about something that happened.

Conservatives have been skeptical of these efforts, and rightfully so. Google, Facebook and other tech companies have not exactly engendered trust with conservatives recently. Just in the last year, Facebook was revealed to have been curating its “trending” stories section in an anti-conservative direction, and Google fielded complaints that their platform was biased against then-candidate Donald Trump.

In response, many conservatives claim the fight against “fake news” will end up as a witch-hunt that delegitimizes conservative voices across some of the biggest platforms on the Internet, and that these criticisms of “fake news” could just as easily be applied to what people consider to be mainstream media.

But those criticisms from conservatives miss the mark. Yes, the mainstream media is biased, because most people who work for mainstream outlets are liberals. Yes, the mainstream media gets stories wrong far too often. Yes, the mainstream media credulously reports things that should be more deeply reported. And yes, especially, the mainstream media needs to get their own house in order and rebuild their credibility before tut-tutting everyone else about the news media environment.

Read more in the Washington Examiner.

Neily Op-Ed Published in The Hill

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

US is losing the innovation war — to China

Franklin Center President Nicole Neily writes in The Hill about the decline in American innovation due to a weakening of intellectual property laws:

Over the last decade, government policies and legal rulings are pushing U.S. investment money overseas to China, while here in the United States, key industries that have potential to spur economic growth are paying the price.

This may sound like the sentiments of President-elect Donald Trump, but it’s actually the verdict that former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos delivered during his closing remarks at a recent Inventing America conference.

“The U.S. no longer provides the kind of patent incentives that are necessary to invest in key industries like biotech and software,” Kappos lamented. “When investment incentives are reduced, you can expect investment to move elsewhere.”

Read more in The Hill.

Bicknell Op-Ed in National Review

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Want to Fix Journalism? Start by Bringing Diversity of Thought to Newsrooms

If mainstream news organizations want to regain credibility with the public, they should begin by hiring young conservative journalists. That the message from John Bicknell, executive editor of Watchdog.org:

How can we fix the failures of journalism that were made so obvious by the election of 2016? We could start by doing something that might put me out of business, or at least make my job harder to do.

I hire reporters to cover state and local government. They are tasked with finding waste, fraud, and malfeasance, along with shining a light into corners where most news outlets don’t look and from a perspective — that of the free market — from which all too many reporters and editors are not familiar.

During my more than three decades as a journalist, I have sat through my share of diversity training sessions. I have been handed memo after memo and read study after study about how we needed to make our newsrooms look more like the communities we serve. The key word there is “look.”

Read more at National Review Online.

Glass Op-Ed Published in Townhall

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Will Draining the Swamp Work in Florida?

Franklin Center Policy Director Kevin Glass takes a closer look at the anti-cronyist aspirations of Florida’s new Speaker of the House:

Incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran cut his teeth on the Florida house appropriations committee, but he’s got bigger aspirations than merely appropriations as he assumes his leadership position: he wants to make the Florida legislature the most transparent in the country, and he’s willing to take on his own party to do it.

Legislators around the country could learn from Corcoran’s ambitious agenda.

While Florida has a reputation for a hard-partying coastal vacation destination, its state capitol’s politics may take more cues from the notorious “good ol’ boys’ network” that other more traditionally Southern states have. Reformers have targeted Tallahassee, claiming that handouts and corporate welfare permeate the way the state government does business.

Read more at Townhall. 


Glass Op-Ed Published in the Washington Examiner

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Why the Constitution still matters at universities

Franklin Center Policy Director Kevin Glass takes to the Washington Examiner to weigh into the campus free speech debate:

Polling tends to find that millennials are the generation least friendly to free speech. They focus more on potential downsides and harm that words can cause than the upside of being able to speak their minds freely. Perhaps they never learned the axiom about sticks and stones.

Or perhaps it’s because the millennial generation has, largely, been through four years of a college education on a modern university campus (Remember, the millennial generation starts with those born in 1980. Most of them already have their bachelor’s degrees). With speech codes, speech zones, funding inequities and more, they’ve been educated in an environment that teaches that free speech can be tolerated if absolutely necessary, but never encouraged.

That this flies in the face of 200 years of American legal and normative precepts doesn’t much matter. But even the college campus might begin to find that the ivory tower is sometimes subject to antiquated notions like those contained in the U.S. Constitution.

It’s important to realize how dependent colleges and universities are on taxpayer money at both the state and local level, which is why they continue to run into issues that don’t affect private institutions. “Spending on higher education is the third-largest budget item for state legislatures, after Medicaid spending and public schools,” Casey Mattox of the Alliance Defending Freedom said at a Washington policy summit hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. “So you have quite a lot at stake.”

Read more in the Washington Examiner.

Glass Op-Ed Published in Townhall

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

2016 Highlights Battles Ahead for Choice Schooling

Franklin Center Policy Director Kevin Glass examines the election’s impact on education reform:

The biggest narrative coming out of the toplines of the 2016 election is that Americans voted for change. When it comes to traditional K-12 education, though, many voters showed they’re voting for some of the same status-quo policies that have left so many American parents and children behind.

In Massachusetts and Georgia, two major school reform measures were put directly to the voters – and rejected wholesale. Massachusetts’ measure would have increased the artificial cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state, while Georgia’s would have given the state government flexibility to relax rigid rules on failing schools. The voters in those states turned them down, despite the track records of success that indicate that education outcomes would have improved.

Read the full piece at Townhall.com