5 months ago

Is economic freedom killing people?

I frequently extol the virtues of economic freedom, which generally produces prosperity and rising standards of living. However, could economic freedom possibly be contributing to America’s opioid crisis and its tragic deaths?

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson suggests so in his book Ship of Fools. The argument deserves a hearing, especially with proponents of free markets. The costs of today’s malaise are undeniable. As Mr. Carlson writes, “If you’re a middle-aged American man, you probably know at least one peer who has killed himself in recent years, and maybe more than one.” The statistics are grim: a 43 percent increase in suicides among middle-aged men, a quadrupling of opioid-related overdose deaths, ten percent of men between 25 and 54 out of the workforce. Suicides and overdoses are reducing life expectancy.

The loss of jobs in manufacturing and mining provides a plausible economic cause. Academic research links job loss with a loss of self-esteem, depression and family breakup. It is a short step to addiction, and the geographic concentration of job loss coincides with opioid addiction. The role of international trade, automation, and immigration specifically implicates economic freedom. Businesses have moved jobs overseas, automated jobs, and hired inexpensive immigrants, boosting profits while eliminating jobs supporting middle-class families.

Is economic freedom truly to blame? In one sense we must say no, because economic freedom enabled the factories which lifted families into the middle-class. The effect must be through interaction with other economic forces. As Mr. Carlson writes, “Someone needs to protect workers from the terrifying power of market forces, which tend to accelerate change to intolerable levels and crush the weak.” Globalization and automation may be occurring too fast for people to cope due to economic freedom.

Some economists would contend that displaced workers just need to learn new skills and find new jobs. Artificial intelligence will not end work and unemployment is at record lows. This may be the best time to ever have to switch careers. Yet I agree with Mr. Carlson that this response is lame. It’s like telling someone not to get depressed over the death of a family member. People inevitably have difficulty accepting that what they have done for years is no longer needed, and the new job almost surely won’t pay as much as the factory.

Something more fundamental seems to be happening. The failure of numerous manufacturers over the decades – like Studebaker, Packard and Pullman – never produced such dramatic consequences. What we are witnessing is the end of the need for thousands of jobs in steel or auto plants for decades. Smart robots will be doing any new job long before employers need to hire thousands of workers. Work will be fleeting.

This has, I think, broken down a long-standing informal deal. I’ve previously called this the “Allentown economy,” in honor of Billy Joel’s awesome and prescient 1982 song. One line went, “For the promises our teachers gave, If we worked hard, If we behaved.” Do as authority figures (teachers and later bosses) ask and life will be good. A middle-class standard of living was never gifted to workers; their work in factories helped make America prosperous.

The implicit deal’s breakdown explains the extent of today’s malaise and the inadequacy of retraining. People willing to follow direction and work hard are no longer so needed. The Allentown economy was not created as part of anyone’s grand design. The deal worked and so people went along.

Is there a solution to the breakdown of the deal? Unfortunately, the complex social problems rarely admit easy solutions. Our economy is much more complicated than, say, a derailed train. Any solution may excessively curtail market forces.

Economic freedom allows people to craft lives they want to live. America today almost surely has more prosperity and innovative ways to earn a living than ever. Yet millions of Americans cannot find a life worth living. This is a tragedy, whether attributable to economic freedom or not.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

14 mins ago

7 Things: Ivey wants ideas for tolls, Aderholt calls on Senate candidates to love Trump, ALGOP could target Ilhan Omar and more …

7. Abortion law is far from settled in Alabama

  • The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation’s (ACLU)  lawyer, Alex Kolbi-Molina, has spoken out against Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s most recent arguments in the state’s abortion ban court battle, saying that the Supreme Court supports people making personal decisions, which includes having an abortion.
  • Kolbi-Molina went on to say that Alabamians shouldn’t have to fight for their “settled constitutional rights every time the State of Alabama knowingly and deliberately enacts an unconstitutional abortion law.” Marshall has officially filed a response to the ACLU stating that he’s planning to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade.

6. Background check back-and-forth

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  • Despite a report published by The Atlantic claiming that President Donald Trump is against expanding federal background checks for firearms, a White House official has said that the president maintains being open to “meaningful” expansion of background checks.
  • However, the NRA in a tweet claimed to have had a conversation with Trump where he said that universal background checks are out of consideration.

5. More tax cuts possible

  • Just before meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, President Trump said that the notion we could be heading towards a recession is “inappropriate,” and hinted that he could be interested in cutting payroll taxes.
  • Trump responded to reports that the White House has already started discussing cutting payroll taxes, and he said that it’s “something we think about all the time and a lot of people would like that.” He also said that whether it’s done or not, it wouldn’t be because of the threat of a recession.

4. Doug Jones is telling on himself

  • In a moment of accidental honesty, and terrible politics, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) acknowledged on social media that he is a progressive in the mold of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who was bragging about winning in a red state as a real progressive.
  • Jones, who was supported by a statewide media campaign that argued he was a moderate and not a liberal, agreed and acknowledged his progressive track record is why he is going to win reelection in Alabama in 2020.

3. Push to expel Ilhan Omar from Congress

  • Alabama State Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Bryant) has announced that he will be introducing a resolution that will call for the expulsion of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) due to her “anti-American” rhetoric.
  • Hanes said that he’s tired of Omar’s “anti-American sentiments” and he believes other Alabamians are, too. He’s hopeful that Washington and Alabama will support and begin the process to expel Omar from Congress.

2. Aderholt: U.S. Senate candidates should support Trump

  • U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has a message for all of the candidates in the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Alabama that want GOP support, and it’s as simple as showing support for President Donald Trump, which they are all crawling over themselves to do already.
  • Aderholt said that he’s seen Trump receive more support than other presidents he’s seen, adding that from what he’s noticed, people are “optimistic” about Trump and what he’s done and is going to do. He went on to say that Senate candidates “need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

1. Ivey wants you to pay for what you use

  • In a radio interview, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey made it clear that she is standing firm on her decision to back tolls for the Alabama Bay Bridge and Skyview project. She slammed detractors as freeloaders, but she indicated she is open to new ideas.
  • Ivey put the onus on opponents to the toll project, stating, “If somebody has got a better idea of what the toll should be or if we should never toll. That’s the reason I’m hosting the October 7 meeting at the State Capitol for the Toll Bridge and Road Authority – so people can put reasonable solutions on the table. How do we pay for the bridge?”

39 mins ago

‘Tuberville has seized the momentum’: Internal polling shows 16% gap in U.S. Senate primary

Yellowhammer News has obtained a new internal polling memo from Tommy Tuberville’s U.S. Senate campaign that shows the former Auburn University head football coach gaining 10% since June and stretching his lead well into double digits.

The memo summarizes the results of a survey conducted by Moore Information Group, a well-respected national polling firm, from August 11-13. 400 likely 2020 Republican primary voters in Alabama made up the sampling of respondents. The poll’s margin of error was 5%.

The polling memo details, “The data have been weighted to reflect expected turnout demographics for the 2020 primary election.”

“Tuberville leads all candidates with 33%, with support for both Congressman Bradley Byrne (17%) and former Chief Justice Roy Moore (15%) in the mid-teens,” the memo states.

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According to the survey, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, at 13%, barely trailed Moore.

State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) came in at 1%.

Tuberville, at 23%, was leading the field in his internal poll conducted by the same firm in June. That month’s results showed Moore in second at 18%, followed by Byrne (16%), Merrill (8%) and Mooney (2%). Moore and Merrill had not yet officially announced their bids at that time.

One interesting nugget emphasized in the memo is that the August survey asked respondents whether they were fans of Auburn’s or the University of Alabama’s football programs.

Some have predicted that Tuberville’s Auburn past, given the intense rivalry between the programs, could hurt his statewide campaign.

However, he was the number-one choice of Tide fans in this latest poll, gaining 33% of their vote. Moore (17%) was the next most popular candidate with Bama enthusiasts.

Then, among Auburn fans, Tuberville did have a marked increase over his overall ballot number. Among those who cheer on the Tigers, 43% said they would vote for him, with Merrill (18%) the next highest in that demographic.

The memo also revealed some geographical differences, including the obvious reality that Byrne is leading in the district he represents in Congress, AL-01. Tuberville led all other congressional districts, besides AL-02, where he was tied with Moore.

At 38%, Tuberville performed best out of all candidates with those respondents identifying immigration as their top priority.

A look at name identification and favorability numbers also looked encouraging to Tuberville’s campaign.

While 97% of respondents had heard of Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice’s numbers are still under water — and not appearing to improve. 31% view Moore favorably, while 56% view him unfavorably.

Tuberville had the next highest name identification level by a wide margin at 87%. An impressive 54% of respondents viewed him favorably, compared to 12% unfavorably.

Byrne and Merrill’s numbers in this regard were very similar.

Byrne had 56% name identification, with 31% viewing him favorably and 7% unfavorably.

Merrill had 54% name identification, with 29% viewing him favorably and 5% unfavorably.

In a hotly contested race like this, it can also be important to see which candidates are popular with the supporters of another candidate. As the primary gets closer, some voters may choose to go with their “second choice” if he or she believes that candidate has a better chance of winning — or if their primary choice disappoints them.

Testing a second choice ballot, Tuberville (23%) led in this category, too, followed by Byrne (17%), Merrill (16%), Moore (11%) and Mooney (3%).

In a statement, Erik Iverson, president and managing partner of Moore Information Group, said, “Coach Tuberville has seized the momentum and stretched his lead to double digits in a crowded primary, and that’s no small feat.”

“Alabama Republican primary voters are backing Coach, a political outsider who’s been a staunch supporter of President Trump from the beginning, over the politicians running against him. Doug Jones should be very nervous,” he concluded.

You can view the full polling memo here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Jones: Israel shouldn’t have barred Omar, Tlaib; Trump’s Tuesday comments ‘imbecilic’

BIRMINGHAM — Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Tuesday delivered the keynote address at an event entitled, “Opportunities for Technology Partnerships Between Alabama and Israeli Businesses.”

During his speech and in comments to the media afterwards, Jones made it clear that he is generally a supporter of Israel and values its friendship with the United States and the state of Alabama.

Enjoying the U.S. Senate’s August recess and back from his recent trip to San Diego, CA, Jones opened by joking, “I don’t know what the weather is in Israel, but I know it’s hot as hell here.”

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He highlighted the importance of international trade and relationships during his 16-minute speech, reiterating his apprehension about ongoing tariff tensions with China, which he called a “rogue” nation.

However, given the topic of the event, the conversation ultimately came back to a much different nation: Israel.

After extolling the significant bipartisan merits of fostering economic development partnerships between the U.S. and Israel, as well as Alabama and Israel, Jones concluded his remarks by addressing “the elephant in the room” — the ongoing, heavily publicized controversy involving Israel, U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and President Donald Trump.

Tlaib and Omar last week were barred from entering Israel on a congressional trip after the Israeli government learned of the freshmen Democratic lawmakers’ specific plans in the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended this decision, explaining that a 2017 law denies entry to supporters of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement.

The situation with Tlaib has gained extra attention, as she said she wanted to visit her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank, but, after being granted permission by the Israeli government to do so on humanitarian grounds, Tlaib refused to travel to the country.

This led Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to state that Tlaib’s “hatred of Israel is stronger than her love of her grandmother.”

Trump has been active on social media and in comments to the press attacking Tlaib and Omar over the fiasco.

On Tuesday, he broadened his comments, saying, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

The president further said Omar “is a disaster for Jewish people” and lamented what the two have said in the past about Israel.

Jones on Tuesday expressed his hope that the situation can de-escalate on both sides of the aisle.

“[T]he relationship with Israel, I think is so, so important,” Jones said, saying how proud he was that Alabama in 1943 was the first state to call for the nation of Israel to be established.

“The commitment between the United States and Israel is as strong as it’s ever been,” Alabama’s junior senator advised. “And that is important. Israel has been such a strategic partner for the United States. And it has been good for us and it’s been good for Israel.”

“There’s been probably no better ally in the world in the last 40, 50 years than Israel. And we need to keep it that way,” he emphasized. “I want to make sure that we talk about that relationship.”

The senator outlined that there are strategic benefits for the U.S. in this relationship, spanning economic, military and humanitarian categories.

Jones also said the timing of the Birmingham event was “fortuitous” given the national controversy currently unfolding.

He called what was happening “a strain … with our relationship with Israel.”

“And I am concerned,” Jones stressed. “I will be very candid about this. I’m concerned that the relationship with Israel is beginning to see some cracks for political reasons. And that should not be the case. We need to do everything that we can in our respective countries to speak out against that. Because what I see and what I’m fearful of is that the relationship with Israel is now being used as a political weapon to try to divide people and try to drive political wedges for political gain. And it’s happening here, it’s happening in Israel. And we can’t, we can’t allow that to happen. Our alliance is too important to allow that to happen.”

He added that he was happy to witness firsthand Alabama and Israeli business leaders coming together to partner.

“[W]hat you’re doing, what you’re doing here is to demonstrate to so many people, whether they’re senators, whether they’re members of Congress, whether they’re members of the Israeli government or the President of the United States, that the foundations of the United States/Israeli relationship is strong, it’s bipartisan and it’s going to remain strong,” he told the crowd at Alabama Power Company’s headquarters building.

‘Not a whole lot of profiles in courage to stand up to your own party’

Lenny Roth, who co-chairs a PAC that supports positive relations between Israel and the U.S., then asked Jones if he is feeling pressure from his fellow Democrats, especially ones currently running for president in the 2020 cycle, to adopt an anti-Israel position.

“I think I’m the only one in the [Democratic] Caucus not running for president,” Jones joked.

Roth also asked whether supporting the country or not would become a litmus test for candidates, something he said would be unfortunate if it was to happen.

“I agree with you,” Jones responded. “There is a litmus test on the left, there is a litmus test on the right. And that’s unfortunate, and it goes way beyond just the Israeli thing right now.”

“I don’t feel any pressure in my caucus,” he added, getting back to the first question. “Where the pressure — it’s not pressure. Where the conflict comes is when you have certain members of the Democratic Caucus who say things that I don’t agree with and that so many of our caucus does not agree with and speaks out against — but yet when they get attacked on a personal level, when they get attacked as members of Congress, not because of just their beliefs but [they’re] because members of Congress and they get denied the right to go to visit [Israel] with other members of Congress, they’re — you have to defend those people as members of Congress. And therein lies the challenge, because people — there are those on the other side of the political aisle that want to kind of pull those together. And that’s going to be the challenge, I think, for people like me who absolutely have condemned comments that I found to be anti-Semitic by members of my party. Just like there are members in the Republican Party who have made comments that I believe are absolutely, unequivocally racist comments.”

He continued, “And people in the Republican Party need to condemn those remarks just as much. We don’t do enough of that. There’s not a whole lot of profiles in courage to stand up to your own party these days. I think you’re going to start seeing that more. I don’t feel any pressure, and I’m not going to feel any pressure. They know better than that. But I think the overwhelming numbers of people of goodwill of both Republican and Democratic Parties hopefully are not going to let this happen. They’re going to let this die down, and they’re not going to let this happen.”

Jones said the American-Israeli relationship will “take nurturing” moving forward to ensure longterm strength. He explained that “challenging members” of his own party “is the best” he can do right now to safeguard the relationship between the two nations.

From there, Jones was directly asked minutes later in a media gaggle about Trump’s statement made hours earlier, when the president said, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

“I think it’s absurd,” Jones said of Trump’s statement. “It’s imbecilic almost, I mean —  that’s exactly what I was talking about.”

He said whether it is the president or anyone else, any action “trying to drive a wedge” regarding the United States’ relationship with Israel is “shameful.”

Jones said Trump made the statement because the majority of Jewish voters voted Democratic in the last presidential cycle, according to Pew Research, and that the president is trying to “peel away” these voters.

“Look — if the president can’t win on his own policies and his own economic policies — the economy’s good even though we’re teetering right now — if he can’t win on his own policies, he apparently feels like he has to drive a wedge and use just language like that that is just absurd. And it is really unfortunate. It is unnecessary. And it really puts the United States at a real disadvantage on the world stage. And that’s what I think he doesn’t fully understand.”

The junior senator from nearby Mountain Brook was then asked about Omar and Tlaib, by name, being barred from entry into Israel on the congressional trip.

“Well, I don’t think it was appropriate. They [are] members of Congress. They [are] representatives of the United States who were going over there as part of a larger delegation. They should have been allowed to go just like the other members of the delegation,” Jones said, ignoring that the other members were not admittedly planning on breaking Israeli law. “Having said that, I don’t agree with a lot of their views about Israel. But they’re entitled to those views when we’re a country of diverse opinions and diverse political opinions.”

Still not invoking their names, he said Omar’s and Tlaib’s views about Israel “are not consistent with the historical relationship” between the two nations.

“What I will caution them to do is to not use such incendiary language, that they’ve often done, that confuses the relationship with Israel as being anti-Semitic,” Jones added. “And that has happened, and it’s unfortunate and should not happen.”

He stressed his belief that Israel and the United States “will get past this.”

Before leaving the venue, Jones seemed to stray from his anti-wedge stance, coming back to the “Russian collusion” narrative that Democrats have tried to use as a political weapon in referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “Moscow Mitch.”

Jones has been consistent in stating his desire for the Democrats to retake the U.S. Senate, which would presumably make Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the majority leader.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Van Smith scores impressive victory in Alabama’s HD 42 primary, advances to November general

Autauga County Commissioner Van Smith is the presumed winner of the Republican special primary election in House District 42.

The primary to fill the vacancy left by the the death of State Rep. Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) occurred on Tuesday in parts of Autauga and Chilton Counties.

According to the Alabama Republican Party, unofficial results of the primary were as follows:

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Van Smith – 2,237 (56.85%)
Jimmie Hardee – 686 (17.43%)
Allen Caton – 622 (15.81%)
Shannon Welch – 390 (9.91%)

While provisional ballots will be counted on August 27 and the certification of votes will occur on August 28, a statement from the ALGOP stated that Smith is seemingly the Republican nominee for HD 42, impressively avoiding a runoff in a very competitive race.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “I offer my congratulations to Van Smith on his apparent victory in the Republican Special Primary Election for Alabama State House District 42.”

“While this district is considered a solid Republican area, we will not take anything for granted and plan to work hard to ensure we hold this seat,” she concluded.

Smith was endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Forestry Association in the primary.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)