By Rob Roper

Rob Roper

A number of public school teachers and administrators have recently raised serious concerns about re-opening schools this fall. Harwood Union Superintendent, Brigid Nease, just penned a 2225 word letter sounding the alarm about the overwhelming challenges facing the system. Then on July 30, the House Education Committee held a three plus hour special meeting to hear from school officials about how they are preparing to open for the coming school year. All indications are this experiment it won’t end well.

The principals don’t even know if they have enough staff to open. One superintendent did a survey and 50% of her staff were either high risk for Covid or lived with someone who is. Teachers are waiting to hear what the plan is before they decide if they’ll take part or part ways.

On the consumer side, principals don’t know how many students they’ll have. Secretary Dan French testified that filings to homeschool are officially up 75%, but the one agency employee designated to handle this paperwork is overwhelmed. The real number is larger and is likely to keep growing as parents learn more about what’s really in store.

Libby Bonesteel, Superintendent for Montpelier Roxbury, opined that schools are unequipped to handle most health issues. “We’re not a hospital setting,” she said, and pointed out that the symptoms of Covid 19 are symptoms young kids exhibit all the time.

What are teachers supposed to do if a student has, for example, diarrhea? This is the number one Covid symptom for young kids, but it’s also brought on by a bad mix of junk food or a host of other reasons. Should school officials assume it’s Covid? Shut down the school? If multiple kids exhibit symptoms such as fever (she said is common for four or five kids to exhibit fever on a given day) schools don’t have the resources to isolate them all. There is no space inside, and outside doesn’t work in January. What if a child or teacher actually does test positive for Covid? “I understand the safety guidance,” said Bonesteel, “but when it’s put into reality in a school building, it’s just not realistic.”

As Nease concluded, “… I think we are going to try to reopen school, and I think we will fail in ways that may have permanent, unrecoverable repercussions for our students, school systems, and community.”

Nease, Bonesteel and their colleagues have my sympathies, but more so do the parents and primarily the students who need to have some return to stability now. For many if not most families, the ad hoc remote learning program schools put into place didn’t cut it either for accommodating adult work schedules or for fostering student learning. Families can’t afford another year of chaos. If the public schools aren’t in a position to offer a stable, predictable, effective learning experience, for whatever reasons, then other options need to be made available.

Even the New York Times recognized that alternatives are necessary with a briefing, Remote Learning? No Thanks, exploring some of the creative solutions parents are turning to, such as:

  • genuine home schooling (learn more about VT options at VHEN.org.)
  • home schooling “clusters” in which home schooling parents come together to share resources and labor among families to educate children.
  • “Pandemic Pods,” a similar but less formal arrangement to “clusters.”
  • parents hiring full time tutors for their own kids.
  • “micro-schools,” in which multiple families hire a teacher/tutor to teach a handful of children.

To illustrate the popularity of (or desperation for) such options, The Times cited a new Facebook group, “Microschools and Pandemic Pods” that as of this writing has just under 30,000 members with 10,000 new ones joining in the past week alone.

But when one looks at these solutions it’s clear that they work best for families with financial means. The money to hire a tutor or the flexibility to forego a salary to homeschool aren’t universal. The worry that a Covid-induced gap in quality learning will lead to greater outcome inequities is a real concern. This is why the state should consider allowing funding to follow the child into some or all of these alternative solutions so that lower income families also have the options to homeschool or hire professional help. In some cases, such as micro-schools and pods, changes to the law may be necessary to allow kids to access a stable learning environment. 

We spend $1.8 billion a year in Vermont to educate our children. That’s what the money should be spent on. If the public school system is not doing its job, to the extent it isn’t, it shouldn’t be getting that money. Rather, the money should be diverted into functional educational opportunities for kids. That’s who the system is really for, right?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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July 31, 2020

By John McClaughry

Olivia de Havilland died last week at the age of 104. She was remembered by most  for her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind, but for me she will always be Maid Marian in the 1938 Warner Brothers production of Robin Hood. For years I have held that up to my children as the finest movie ever made.

Actors Ronald Reagan and Olivia de Havilland eating lunch together at the Warner Bros Studio commissary, Los Angeles, 1938. (Photo by Archive Photos/Moviepix/Getty Images)

Olivia playedin it the sweet, ingenuous Maid Marian, a ward of the crown. She played off against the handsome, dashing, courageous and infinitely charming Robin (Errol Flynn), learning in his Sherwood Forest hideout of his battle against the tyrannical oppression of AngloSaxon peasants by the bad Prince John (Claude Rains) , the evil Sir Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone)  and the greedy Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper)..

In real life, Olivia was a sincere American liberal. Like her contemporary and sometime Flynn co-star Ronald Reagan, she stood up for American liberties and denounced the extensive communist infiltration of Hollywood. In an address in 1946 she said the liberal movement “is controlled by those who are more interested in taking orders from Moscow and following the party line than they are in making democracy work.” The only answer was for liberals to distance themselves from Stalin and his followers, the American Communists. “We believe in democracy,” she told the crowd, “and not in Communism.” Bravely spoken, Maid Marian!

She took much furious abuse from the communists for that, but earned the praise of those who, like Ronald Reagan,  shared her idea of America as a  land of freedom. Rest in Peace.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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July 31, 2020

by Rob Roper

Covid 19 is going to change how many things are done around the world even long after it’s gone, and some for the better. Business leaders are already blown away by how the virus has spurred technology innovations and changes to corporate culture. Reforms that would have taken years or never come to fruition at all are happening overnight in Lockdown Land. Telemedicine is taking off, for example, and companies are embracing the benefits of telecommuting to save on office space and travel expenses.

One casualty of the Covid innovation revolution is going to be the public school system. Last spring this “unsinkable” juggernaut of political, financial, and cultural power, steaming along at full speed, hit the iceberg. This fall that ship will break apart.

On Thursday afternoon, the House Education Committee held a three plus hour special meeting to hear from school officials about how they are preparing to open for the coming school year. The list of witnesses included several superintendents, representatives for teachers and principals, and the secretary of education. (Note: no parents!) The short answer to the question, though, is: they haven’t a clue, and it won’t end well.

House Ed Hearing Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHWovHvQPUQ

House Ed Hearing Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PYfbEtGoL8

The principals don’t know how many staff they’ll have. One superintendent did a survey and 50% of her staff were either high risk for Covid or lived with someone who is. Teachers are waiting to hear what the plan is before they decide if they’ll take part or part ways. Principals don’t know how many students they’ll have. Secretary Dan French testified that parents filing to homeschool are officially up 75% over last year, but the one agency employee who handles this is overwhelmed and that number is likely already larger and is likely to keep increasing as parents learn more about what’s really in store for the new year.

Libby Bonesteel, Superintendent of Schools, Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools, opined that the schools are totally unprepared for the health aspects of this crisis. She pointed out that the symptoms of Covid 19 are symptoms school kids exhibit all the time. What are they supposed to do if a student has, for example, diarrhea – the number one Covid symptom for young kids — also brought on by a bad mix of junk food? Assume it’s Covid? Shut down the school? If multiple kids exhibit symptoms such as fever, which she said is normal for four or five kids to exhibit at a time in a school, how can the school isolate them all? There is no space and outside doesn’t work in January. What if a child or teacher actually does test positive for Covid? There are no answers to these questions. “I understand the safety guidance,” said Bonesteel, “but when it’s put into reality in a school building, it’s just not realistic.”

Watching these three hours of testimony – and every parent with a child in the public school system should watch – it’s clear that the public school model of putting lots of kids in higher population classrooms is incompatible with a pandemic. Neither parents nor teacher it seems are comfortable with this structure. Parents are seeking other options, such as home schooling, micro-schools, “pandemic pods,” or hiring tutors for just their own families.

The state needs to divert funding away from the model that doesn’t work and support the new models that do. And this needs to happen quickly, especially for low income families that don’t have the resources to pursue other, safer, more reliable and effective options. Parents and kids can’t afford another year of uncertainty, instability, and no learning.  

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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July 30, 2020

By David Flemming

As Governor Scott’s mask mandate looms on August 1, a popular question many Vermonters are asking is “how strictly will it be enforced?” Perhaps nothing much will change, as the vast majority of Vermonters already wear masks when out in public. Maybe police will only give warnings. Maybe it will be enforced by social shaming rather than fines and imprisonment. Or maybe Vermont will follow after Florida, where people are being fined $100 for taking off their masks in nearly-empty parking lots after grocery shopping.

If the state views universal mask wearing as the single most important goal for keeping Covid-19 at bay, perhaps we should ask- “has the law been upheld impartially with a lack of personal vindictiveness during the pandemic?” Is the law a line that any self-respecting Vermonter will not cross, because they believe upholding the law is a sacred societal bond, personal beliefs about the mask mandate aside?

Just across Lake Champlain, the answer is: most assuredly not. After New York bars tried serving drinks to guests to stay afloat, Cuomo demanded that they serve food or risk being shut down. Many bars began offering $1 “Cuomo chips” to meet the new regulation. That loophole closed last week. Cuomo threw down the gauntlet – bars could only remain open if they served “substantive food.” Sandwiches met that ‘substantive food provision.’ “Hors d’oeuvres” and “chicken wings” did not. This is supposedly supposed to encourage patrons to stay in their seats. I’m personally more comfortable eating a sandwich standing up and eating chicken wings sitting down. The regulation doesn’t make sense and comes across as laughably petty.

Even here in Vermont, we haven’t had it much better. Sean Manovill, tried re-opening Club Fitness of Vermont, a gym in Rutland. A judge ordered it closed. Manovill moved the gym’s equipment to the parking lot and tried re-opening again. At that point Attorney General T.J. Donovan filed a civil lawsuit against Manovill.

Vermonters are probably more aware of the Rutland story than the New York one, but both make the very idea of the law being enforced by neutral government agents seem like a pipe dream. Even before the absurdity of vindictive Covid-19 laws, our Legislature passed a host of cumbersome unnecessary laws. Ie “gender free restrooms,” cutting off permission for 18-20 year olds who can fight in the military to buy cigarettes and guns, removing slavery from our Constitution and banning plastic bags. All the while maintaining Vermont’s status as the third-most taxed state in the country.

And when the rule of law is treated as the Legislature’s and bureaucracy’s personal plaything, any future orders, no matter how much sense they make, are bound to foster indignation toward the law. Indignant people are less likely to obey. Appeals to reason are repelled by Vermonters with long memories.

If we take as a given that the mask mandate is really necessary toward stifling a Covid-19 outbreak, how often will Vermonters treat this seriously, when our legislature passes such nonsense legislation in years (and months) prior? The government that cried ‘mask mandate’ may indeed start to look like the boy who cried wolf. One can only hope that the Covid-19 is truly less dangerous than the doomsayers proclaim, because ‘respect for the law’ cannot be relied upon to encourage mask wearing compliance. Threats and shame are the only tools left for enforcement. Maybe next time the legislature will think twice about legislating pettiness.

I will be wearing my mask out of respect for my neighbors and not my government’s casually oblivious treatment of the law before this mask mandate. But I won’t be wasting this opportunity to tell my neighbors how dangerous it was for the government to be passing such asinine legislation leading up to 2020.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John McClaughry

In this election season almost every candidate is promising to deliver “more affordable health care!” Most of them are at least subconsciously thinking  “I’ll support legislation to have the government compel somebody else to pay more of your health care costs. That ‘somebody else’ includes, variously, the taxpayers, your employer, others in your insurance pool, and the providers themselves.”

Let’s ask this question: “where can I get more affordable prices for high quality medical services, at a facility that does a lot of the procedures I require, gets above average results, and knows how to cope with every complication?” Let’s focus on commonplace coronary artery bypass graft surgery (“CABG”), as opposed to continuing treatment for chronic conditions, and let’s compare the quoted all-in bundled price (not including post-operational physical therapy sessions).

According to one not atypical 2018 survey, your U.S. CABG operation will cost $123,000 on average, or in the best case as little as $80,000 if you negotiate payment in cash.

Now look at Surgery Center of Oklahoma, which pioneered the bundled price. You can get your CABG done there by experts for $12,000. That’s mainly because SCO specializes in a small number of types of operations, keeps overhead low, takes only cash payments, and practices low markup on pharmaceuticals. That’s impressive. Of course you have to fly to Oklahoma City and back, and do your post-op recovery back home.

Now let’s look at the bundled price of the same procedure, at a medical center that does thousands of that procedure, with British and U.S. board-certified surgeons. Let’s go on past Thailand and Singapore to the world’s extreme example: Narayana Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Bengaloru, in India’s Silicon Valley, the flagship of a group of 23 Indian private medical centers.

At Narayana you can get your arteries repaired for $2,000. A lung transplant is yours for $7,000, and a heart transplant for $11,000. And this is not a back-alley discount operation. Its glistening modern equipment is maintained to world standards. Narayana’s coronary artery bypass fatality rate within 30 days is 1.4%. The US average is 1.9%.

Its founder, Dr. Devi Shetty, got his surgical training at Guy’s Hospital, London and was the doctor for Mother Teresa. His son Viren (34, Stanford Business School) heads the world class data management operation. It’s designed to identify unproductive effort and inflated costs, which are eliminated.

Instead of throwing away tubes, they are sterilized and reused. An in-house equipment repair team keeps CT and MRI machines in use long after their warranties expire, when many U.S hospitals send for new ones. Perhaps most important, the staff is “upskilled”- everyone performs at the highest level of their capabilities. Thus junior surgeons do patient prep and open the chest. A senior surgeon comes in, installs the graft, and moves on to another operating room leaving the juniors to sew up.

Narayana’s cost-cutting business model is designed for high throughput, with a low margin per operation. Practiced turnaround teams clean, sterilize, recondition and reequip the operating rooms for their next patients in 15 minutes. For the more affluent inpatient, the hospital offers a premium package: private rooms and, for a measly $5US per hour extra, amenities akin to the first class section on an airplane.

Narayana is one of many private hospitals in India. It makes a profit because of its low prices and efficiency, high volume, good results, largely cash operation, and relative freedom from India’s notorious British-created bureaucracies. As a specialty surgical hospital it does not offer care by primary care physicians, who generally work in clinics funded and controlled by the government.

Narayana’s wages are, of course, at Indian levels, not American. Its model can’t be packed up and dropped into New England (although it operates a clone in the Cayman Islands catering to North Americans.) And the two 22-hour flights between New York and Bengaloru will set you and your companion back $10,000. 

Just the same, like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma Narayana offers an impressive example of how an entrepreneurial surgical hospital can deliver high quality services at strikingly low prices. American hospitals should emulate Narayana’s model, although American government regulations to protect the many interests within our health care systems would likely eat up a lot of the potential savings. 

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org)

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July 24, 2020

By Rob Roper

Dave Gram was a long time reporter for the Associated Press, is currently the host of what’s billed on WDEV as a “news talk” radio show (not an editorial or opinion show), and is an affiliated reporter with VT Digger. Today he was allowed to publish on that last platform a personal attack on another journalist, Guy Page, writer/publisher of Vermont Daily and news editor with VTWatercooler.com.

Let’s be clear here: Gram is a left-wing hack. He always has been. We thank him for finally ripping the mask away from his past absurdly comical claims regarding his own journalistic neutrality. The opening lines of Gram’s attack piece read:

Dante famously said that the worst parts of hell “are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

That’s a tough notion to swallow for many journalists, or even pretend journalists, for example, conservatives who try to use the tools and tropes of journalism to slow progress on the road to justice.

So, maintaining neutrality – a key ethical precept of professional news journalism – is not just unprofessional, it’s immoral. Right. Gotcha, Dave.

For context, Gram was upset that Page asked the Governor at a press conference if the government had a First Amendment responsibility to treat different points of view on things like Black Lives Matter equally. Specifically, if the state was not going to erase Pro-BLM graffiti on public property, was it not a violation of “equal protection under the law” to erase anti-BLM graffiti. Shouldn’t government policy be to apply the same standards to both or all positions on the issue and to not endorse one political message over another?

This is a legitimate question. Equal protection under the law is a foundational principle of our Democratic Republic. It is also at the heart of what BLM activists are supposedly fighting for – that we live up to the promise that all will be treated equally by law enforcement. Some would argue that further abandonment of the equal protection principle would actually, to use Gram’s phrase, “slow the progress on the road to justice,” not speed it along. There’s plenty of evidence that such unequal application of the law is sparking backlash and fueling animosity rather than healing and understanding. (Here’s an article from WPTZ, Black community member says painting has sparked division, made his family feel unsafe.)

But, to Gram, the “real” journalist is the one who doesn’t ask this question; the “pretend” journalist is the one who does. (It’s okay to laugh out loud.)

Gram also takes shots in his weird rant at True North Reports for, one supposes among other things, covering a story about how 500 residents of Mill River, Vermont, signed a petition asking their local school board not to fly BLM or Gay Pride flags over the school.

Public schools are a government-funded monopoly with a forced, captive audience of young kids. Is it proper for a public school to explicitly endorse any political movement or message? If BLM, why not MAGA? What voice does or should the community have is such decisions? Again, these are important questions a real journalist would explore – and only a biased pretend-journalist out to protect a particular a narrative would ignore. Right, Dave?

Gram is not just biased; he’s also not very smart. (Seriously, read his full article , try to follow the logic and come to a different conclusion.) Anyone who’s heard his radio show realizes he lacks intellectual and emotional capacity to deal with reasonable arguments associated with positions in conflict with his own, so, his solution is to avoid them entirely, dismiss them quickly, or, if he can’t do that, attempt to belittle the messenger.

What Gram doesn’t like about Guy Page and True North is that these are people who are actually acting like journalists and asking the difficult questions that he – as the pretend journalist he is – doesn’t think should be asked because the answers might upset his own particular world view. Happily, with his immature outburst here, Gram did us all the service of showing us not only that he himself is not a real journalist, but he pointed clearly to who is.

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Full disclosure: Rob works with Guy Page on the VT Watercooler project, and the Ethan Allen Institute purchases air time on WDEV weekdays following the Dave Gram Show.

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July 24, 2020

By John McClaughry 

The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal last week published eleven news stories about citizens using a firearm to stop a crime. Here are three examples.

  • June 4, Gustavus, Ohio: A homeowner spotted a man underneath a car in his driveway late at night, and grabbed a shotgun to confront him. The man, who police suspect was trying to steal car parts, rushed at the homeowner, who shot and wounded him. Investigators later discovered that the would-be thief possessed several power tools and had put a jack under the homeowner’s car. 
  • June 16, Delta Township, Michigan: a mentally distressed man began firing a handgun at cars on a highway. Emergency dispatchers received at least 10 calls about the man before he jumped in front of the concealed carry permit holder’s car and pointed a gun at him, police said. The driver, who had been on his way to enjoy a round of golf, shot and killed the man. 

In this example protesters against racial injustice used their Second Amendment rights to save the lives of those exercising their First Amendment rights.

This is the upside of widespread firearms ownership protected by the Second Amendment.    

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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July 21, 2020

By John McClaughry

Last Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finalized its updates to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), in what the majority called an effort to “preserve competition” and give states more “flexibility” in implementing the federal rule. Changes include allowing states to set the rates paid to qualifying facilities (solar installations) at a variable wholesale rate rather than a fixed cost, reducing the size of a project that is subject to such rates from 20 MW to 5 MW, and modifying the one-mile spacing rule to prevent aggregation.

So what? Solar PV supporters say the new rule could hurt the ability of small solar projects to secure the financing they need, while utility groups said the changes would prevent customers from paying excess costs to make up for the utility paying way above market prices for solar electricity.

A utility association spokesman said “for years, electricity customers have been paying billions of dollars in excess energy costs as a result of PURPA provisions enacted in the 1970s that allowed well-financed big developers to lock in guaranteed long-term, inflexible contracts at the expense of other more-competitive and cost-efficient renewable energy projects. By updating these rules, FERC has helped to ensure that renewable energy can continue to grow without forcing electricity customers to pay a premium to the developers that learned how to game the system.”

One likely result: less contributions to VPIRG from Vermont’s solar barons.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institution.

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July 17, 2020

By David Flemming

Harper’s Magazine, a long-running monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, is hardly what you would call a ‘politically neutral publication.’ In 2004, it published “Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, a Brief History.” But last week it published one of the thoughtful written pieces of 2020 entitled, “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.”

It was signed by over a hundred nationally recognized writers. Many of those writers are decidedly on the left-wing side of the political spectrum: Margaret Atwood (author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which has become a feminist manifesto); Noam Chomsky (a philosopher who once suggested communist Pol Pot’s genocide numbers were exaggerated), Gloria Steinem (the de facto leader of the early American feminist movement), Zephyr Teachout (the 2016 Democratic candidate for New York’s 19th congressional district), Randi Weingarten (president of the second largest teacher’s union in the country), and Sean Wilentz (a history professor who is a long-time friend of the Clintons).

The letter begins as a typical leftist manifesto might: “Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts.”

But it quickly shifts gears: “…but this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second… democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.”

The authors describe the perilous environment for free expression: “the free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.  While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty…. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics… Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.”

“This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.”

The letter is a challenge to the supposed consensus that American society can only progress with the permission of cultural gatekeepers, who get to decide which ideas are ‘acceptable.’ At its core, the letter is a manifesto for free speech. And while the loudest voices may come from racists and Marxists seem to be abusing their right to free speech, their radical ideas will lose in the end. Some of us who are more conservative may have assumed most everyone on the left would silence themselves in order to ensure that Donald Trump would not be re-elected. This letter suggests that there are still highly influential voices on the left who have broader and nobler ambitions beyond making sure Trump doesn’t get elected. Perhaps instead of exclusively seeking out like-minded allies, we should seek to create allies across the political aisle based on a willingness to say “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” There is an extremely broad range of opinions between the far right and far left. In order to find the best policy solutions, we must make sure all voices feel heard.

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

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July 16, 2020

by John McClaughry

“President Trump [last May] issued an executive order entitled  ‘Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery.’ The executive order includes a regulatory bill of rights that identifies ‘principles of fairness in administrative enforcement and adjudication’ and commands agencies to revise their procedures accordingly.

Elizabeth Slattery and Jonathan Wood write in the Wall Street Journal: “Here are some of the principles: You should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty of violating a regulation. Agency enforcement should be prompt and fair, not needlessly drawn out. Disputes should be decided by neutral judges, not agency enforcement officials. Agency rules of evidence should be clear and fair, and agencies shouldn’t withhold evidence that is potentially exculpatory. Threatened penalties should be proportionate to the alleged wrong. Agencies shouldn’t coerce you into giving up your rights. Agencies shouldn’t engage in practices that cause unfair surprise. And agency practice should promote, rather than evade, accountability.

“These principles may seem basic, but federal agencies have too often failed to uphold them, They withhold fair notice, use biased rules of evidence, threaten excessive penalties to coerce people into giving up, resist scrutiny by courts and evade democratic accountability.

The protections inherent in Bill of Rights are vital to shielding Americans from arbitrary or abusive government action. The Regulatory Bill of Rights promises the same protections against the regulatory state. 

Even Trump disparagers ought to credit him for taking this long overdue step.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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